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In the early 1970s the US Air Force required a light-weight air combat fighter. On 2 February 1974 the YF-16 designed by General Dynamics made its first flight. The YF-16 emerged from a competitive evualuation agianst the Northrop YF-17. Not only because of its superior performance and innovative design but also because of the lower estimated production costs.

The F-16A first flew in December 1976 and the first operational F-16A was delivered in January 1979 to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The F-16B was a twin-seat version of the F-16A with an extended canopy and dual controls. The F-16C and F-16D aircraft, which are the single- and two-place counterparts to the F-16A/B, incorporate modern cockpit control and display technology. The F-16CJ is a modified F-16C for the SEAD role. The European F-16A/B aircraft have recently been upgraded under the Mid-Life Update program and now designated F-16AM/BM. The F-16XL was an experimental version featuring a large delta wing. (see picture)

Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and later Portugal had an agreement with the USA to jointly produce the aircraft. Recently Italy agreed to order a package of F-16 aircraft, parts and weapons to replace its last ageing F-104 Starfighters until the long awaited Eurofighter Typhoon enters service between 2004-2010.

The latest generation of the Falcon are the Block 60 F-16E single and F-16F two-seat fighters. These aircraft feature the latest technology improving the combat effectiveness and multi-role capability of the aircraft. Deliveries of these variants have started. The United Arab Emirates is the first customer. The first Block 60 made its maiden flight in December 2003. Meanwhile Israel is taking deliveries of the F-16I, which is a customized version of the F-16E/F with Israeli avionics and weapons.

USAF F-16s were deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm, where more sorties were flown than with any other aircraft. These fighters were used to attack airfields, military production facilities, Scud missiles sites and a variety of other targets. USAF, Dutch, Turkish and Belgian (?) F-16s flew air combat mission over Bosnia in 1995 performing multiple tasks. Most recently in the Spring of 1999 during Operation Allied Force, F-16s multi-mission fighters flew a variety of missions to include suppression of enemy air defense, offensive counter air, defensive counter air, close air support and forward air controller missions. Mission results were outstanding as these fighters destroyed radar sites, vehicles, tanks, MiGs and buildings. A Dutch F-16AM shot down a MiG-29 Fulcrum using a medium range air-to-air AIM-120 AMRAAM missile.

On 18 March 2005, Lockheed Martin Aero plant in Fort Worth, Texas, delivered the final F-16 Fighting Falcon for the US Air Force. Lockheed Martin continues to produce the F-16 fighter for international customers. A total of 2231 F-16s have been produced for the U.S. Air Force, the active USAF fleet of today counting more than 1300 aircraft.

 

The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a compact, light-weight, highly manoeuvrable, multi-role fighter. Key features of the design include a very high power/weight ratio for good performance in climbing and turning flight, a fly-by-wire control system for maximum agility, a semi-reclining pilots seat to increase pilot comfort and gravity force tolerance, a clear-view canopy offering unexcelled fields of vision, advanced avionics for long-range targeting and accurate weapon delivery. This combined with the low production and maintenance cost, the all-weather capability and long combat radius makes the F-16 a valuable asset to all of the air arms operating it.

 

 

Technical Specifications

 

Powerplant:

one 129 kN (26,000 lb st) General Electric F110-GE-129 or Pratt & Whitney F100-P-229 turbofan

Dimensions:

length 15.03m (49 ft 4 in); height 5.09m (16 ft 8½ in); wing span (over tip launchers) 9.45m (31ft 0 in)

Weights:

take-off ('clean') 9.791 kg (21,585 lb); Max Take-Off Weight 19.187 kg (42,300 lb)

Performance:

max level speed at 12.120m (40,000 ft) more than Mach 2 or 2.124 km/h (1,320 mph); service ceiling more than 15,240m (50,000 ft)

Armament:

one 20mm M61A1 Vulcan six-barrel gun with 515 rounds; 9276 kg (20,450 lb) of disposable stores, including nuclear weapons, ASMs, AAMs, anti-radar missiles, anti-ship missiles, free-fall or guided bombs, cluster bombs, dispenser weapons, rocket launchers, napalm tanks, drop tanks and ECM pods, carried on nine external hardpoints.


GD / LM F-16 FIGHTING FALCON GALLERY

Role: Multi-role fighter
Builder: Lockheed Martin (originally General Dynamics)
Variants: F-16A, F-16B, F-16C, F-16CJ, F-16D, F-16E, F-16F, F-16I, F-16N, F-16XL
Operators: USAF, US Navy, Bahrain, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, (Morocco), Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela